A Woman and a Flood, 120 years ago on the Mississippi Delta

By on June 24, 2017

The amount of rain in Western Pennsylvania so far this year is notable, to say the least.  Our basement (with only a sump pump) is busy pumping off an accumulation of over 1″ of water. But it’s nothing like what pioneer women went through when a flood threatened family, possessions, and home.

Flooding, Power Outage, No Internet

I came across this story tonight, after our power came back on after 5 hours. I’m always amazed and inspired by how resilient, tough and tenacious pioneer women were. Mary Mann Hamilton was one of them. Her family is out with a book about her days as a young mother who was “the first white woman to live in the area [near today’s Delta National Forest]. It was wooded swampland—total wilderness”. Imagine, the Mississippi Delta, pre-flood control, a wilderness deep in cypress swamps, rich in wildlife ….

250 Pounds of Bear….How Many Variations?

Mary Hamilton’s tent-home on a high spot in the Mississippi Delta.

Imagine, no Internet, and no how-to manuals. This woman figured it out as best she could for her husband and family:  “the Delta changed her and molded her. It made her look at the world around her and learn what she needed to survive for herself and her children. I think she found her independence and didn’t always rely on her husband. She reminds us that in the South, the woman is often the center of the family”. No wonder! “From making a tent-home for her family along the Sunflower River in western Mississippi to cooking 250 pounds of bear meat “every way I could think of,” Hamilton’s life was nothing short of a pioneering marvel”, writes her great-grandson.

(250 pounds of bear meat….I cannot compute).

Her Flood, atop a Stump on High Ground

Mary Mann’s great-grandson Kerry W. Hamilton, is bringing out a book on her life, called Trials of the Earth. His favorite story of his foremother is relevant as the rain continues….

Kerry W. Hamilton: “My favorite part is the flood. She woke up in the middle of the night and she thought she heard a snake in the house. It was actually water hissing when it hit the coals in the fire. When she put her feet down out of bed, they were standing

Look at the size of those logs! Her husband cleared land to make way for cotton, an extremely valuable commodity at the time.

in water. She and her husband and children got out of the house, and he took her to the highest ridge. He put a chair on a huge stump and she sat there with two of the children. He left with two more of the children in a boat to find help, knowing that the water wouldn’t rise too high to hurt them because the stump was six feet off the ground and five feet wide. But while they waited, the water rose so high that when my great-grandfather returned, she was standing on the chair with one child standing with her and the other in her arms”.

That friends, is faith, resilience, tenacity, and luck.

Bring it on pioneer women, Inspire me. Remind us all what we’re made of !

Suzy Meyer, Author
Pittsburgh, PA

I'm a landscape architect, gardener, and of late, a certified NRA instructor. I enjoy practicing T’ai Chi, playing bocce, and walking through watersheds.. This blog is my journey full of learning curves to calm the chaos.


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